29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 15 May 2001
PG Wodehouse's books are quite probably the finest examples of English humour ever to have been written, and Uncle Fred in the Springtime is quite possibly his finest work. The title character is a delightfully eccentric old coot, who takes advantage of his formidable wife's occasional jaunts to the South of France to escape the confines of his country seat and visit his eternally melancholy (and somewhat romantically susceptible) nephew, Pongo Twistleton. The juxtaposition of Uncle Fred's bombastic self-confidence and Pongo's pessimistic outlook, combined with a strong sense of self-preservation, produces a comedic duo to rival even the mighty Jeeves & Wooster. The plot is far too complicated to attempt to summarise here, suffice to say that the pair visit that Earthly paradise known as Blandings Castle. Cue Lord Emsworth, Connie, the Efficient Baxter, Beach, and a rare appearance by Lord Emsworth's eldest son, Lord Bosham, who surpasses all expectations by proving to be a bigger chump than his father and younger brother combined. To sum up, this book is superb. Buy it.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This is the first non Jeeves and Wooster book of Wodehouses's that I've read, and I'm pleased to report that the adventures and exploits of Uncle Fred (aka Lord Ickenham) are just as madcap and droll as those of his more renown duo. As with many of the Jeeves and Wooster stories, the plot revolves around (mis)engagements, misunderstandings, country houses, bonny baby contests, blustering pompous old men, duck ponds, and a constable. However, the difference here is that instead of an idiot (Bertie) getting into sticky situations and being rescued by a genius (Jeeves), we have Uncle Fred, who seems to relish creating havoc and then sorting it all out through a variety of impersonations, good natured lies and blackmail, with general irreverence for one and all. The matchmaking leads to all manner of wacky hi-jinks, and as per usual, Wodehouse's comic timing is impeccable. Of course, the real treat is the language, which sparkles as it amuses. The names are especially good in this one, with Pongo, Bill Oakshot, and Sally Potter leading the way. (Coincidentally, two characters share the names of prominent characters from the Harry Potter saga: constable Harold Potter and Hermonie Bostock.) Uncle Fred is the equal of any Wodehouse character, and look forward to tracking down the rest of his tales.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 3 May 2010
The Wodehouse world is a world free of suffering - a kind of return to the garden of eden. Perhaps this is why, dying that I am, I have found the books so invigorating - the books are a great tonic - a true pain killer. Anyway, in this Blandings novel, impersonation is very important with Lord Ickenham coming to Blandings at Emswoth's request but hacing to pretend to be the London Brain surgeon Sir Roderick Glossop in order to keep Lady Constance off the trail. To give a taster, there is a scene where Ickenham heads off Glossop on the train with a view to deflecting Glossop from coming to Blandings but also he wants to get some information on how Glossop goes about his work:
"I wish I had a brain like yours" said Lord Ickenham, "What an amazing thing. I suppose you could walk down a line of people, giving each of them a quick glance, and separate the sheep from the goats line shelling pees..."loony... not loony...this one wants watching.. this ones all right...keep an eye on this chap. Dont let him get near the bread knife..."
Anyway, the novel is hilarious harmless fun. Thanks Fr Schall for getting me back into Wodehouse
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 September 2004
A hugely entertaining book. Uncle Fred cuts a dash as he nonchalantly waltzes through life, unstressed by the chaos around him. I'd love my uncle to have this magic touch and this slice of mischief. I don't think Fred is a mature gentleman at all. I think he is perpetually seventeen and a half with complete disdain for the old fuddy duddies who have a body the same age as his.
And, as always, Wodehouse has a wonderful mastery of the English language, making anything he writes a pleasure to read.
A literary classic without the boring bits.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2001
Whenever I feel down, I pick up a Wodehouse: short story, novel, an essay, a lyric, it doesn't matter what, I am immediately transported by his magnificent words into an altogether much better world. Mind you, I'd pick up any Wodehouse around even when I don't feel down: there is nobody in literature who has written about such a wide range of characters, and fewer still in such a captivatingly funny way; so that Wodehouse remains as relevant a requirement in the 21st century as in the 20th.
The character who provides the highest and most consistent fun though- and by a lot more than a mere short head- is Uncle Fred. Even more than Gally and Psmith he is blessed with answers before anybody has a chance to absorb the problem. In this regard he is beyond even Jeeves, because Jeeves has never actually created the problem- in fact nor has anybody else apart from Uncle Fred: and whereas with all the others "doing good" is what they do, can you find another character-even Psmith-who almost deliberately creates problems, particularly in order to enmash Pongo, so that he can unravel the wonderful denoument in the most complicated and ribachingly funny way? Can anybody tell me why, in a world where even the most boring and relatively recently eatablished writers are studied for A levels and even at University, nobody, to my knowledge, has seen fit to set up a course in PG Wodehouse studies?!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 31 January 2008
If not the best then, at worst, `Uncle Fred in the Springtime' is one of the best Wodehouse novels. It is a sort of a `Best of Wodehouse' with Pongo Twistleton and his Uncle Fred, whom we met previously in `Young Men in Spats', flitting by Blandings Castle under an assumed name, as is traditional to first time visitors. The name in question belongs to Roderick Glossop, renowned psychiatrist, whom has had to pronounce Bertie Wooster certifiable on more than one occasion.
Also present at Blandings are Valerie Twistleton whom has become estranged from her fiancée, Horace Pendlebury-Davenport, whose Uncle, the Duke of Dunstable is determined to remove Lord Emsworth's beloved pig with the help of the efficient Baxter, Emsworth's discharged secretary. Polly Pott is also posing as a secretary to secure the funds she requires to marry her estranged fiancée, Ricky Gilpin, a further nephew of Dunstable.
Uncle Fred believes that it is his mission to spread sweetness and light throughout the world but to unite Valerie and Horace, Polly and Ricky whist separating Dunstable and the Empress and Baxter and Emsworth without driving Pongo to desertion will take all of his and Wodehouse's guile. The sweetness and light is infectious not just through Blandings Castle but is easily caught by the reader. The symptoms are so great only a fool would seek a cure.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 24 September 2011
The good lady wife takes a dim view of Wodehousian characters whom she deems harbour amoral tendencies. Two pre-eminent targets for her censure are Jeeves (cruel and manipulative) and Frederick Altamont Cornwallis Twistleton, fifth Earl of Ickenham (agent of chaos). True, Uncle Fred seems to strew darkness and despond as thickly and evenly as he does sweetness and light, but it seems harsh to cavil when, as is the case with this novel, PGW is firing on all cylinders. Here we are again in the eternal sunshine of the spotless Blandings Castle, where young hearts are sundered, penniless young wastrels need to be forcibly financed, impostors are imposting around every corner, and the Empress is pignapped (when is she ever not?). More importantly, the efficient Baxter gets hit in the face with a well-aimed raw egg launched by a barmy duke, and we are treated to a rare personal appearance by the Earl of Emsworth's older son, Lord Bosham, who achieves a pitch of intellectual negligibility which even the Drones Club's finest could barely hope to emulate. What-ho, what-ho, what-ho! Yoicks! One of the best.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 4 October 2004
This is one of the best audio books that I have ever enjoyed. I must have listened to mine at least 300 times. Well, there's a reason why Martin Jarvis reads absolutely everything and it's because he's absolutely fabulous at it.
Nearly every evening I drift back to Blandings, where Pongo Twistleton goggles at the amazing powers of Uncle Fred who confounds mistaken fiances and fierce sisters as if they were mere gnats on a hot summery day. And not forgetting that magnificent pig, the Empress of Blandings, who also plays a major role......
The first time I listened to this tape I was slightly disappointed because I did not know the characters as well as in the Jeeves and Wooster tales. But now I can happily say that this is one of Wodehouse's best, and highly recommended.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book is more about the exploits of the Earl of Ickenham (Uncle Fred) and his nephew Pongo Twistleton and Lord Emsworths elder son, Bosham.
Then the Duke of Dunstable arrives demanding the garden suite. Connie daren't refuse for fear of him laying waste to the Castle with a poker! He is a bit of a nasty old codger and a bully and keeps trying to take Lord Emsworth's pig The Empress away. He is convinced that he is living in a mad house so suggests to Connie that they get a Psychiatrist down to Blandings to give The Earl the once over. This is where things do really start to turn into loony tunes.
I would love (as another reviewer pointed out) an Uncle like the Earl. He is an older man but still full of high jinx and not above pulling a confidence trick just to prove that he could do it.
There is also a P.I. by the name of Mustard (commonly called Mustard Potts) his daughter Polly and the Duke's nephew Horace. Polly is in love with a chap called Ricky Gilpin (another of the Dukes nephews). She was at one time engaged to Horace. What they need is £250 to buy a Onion Soup shop and Pongo needs £250 to pay off his creditors.
Uncle Fred sets in motion a train of events which made me laugh out loud and I particularly liked reading how the Eminent Baxter got lamped with an egg.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 13 May 2008
There are certain books and certain authors one is coy about naming in the realms of favourites - Mr Wodehouse is one.
Ever since teenageness I've been drawn to the chaos of the phantom upper-class world he scratched out - less enamoured, I have to say, of the American excursions. What attracts is difficult to say - maybe the downright silliness of them.
Wodehouse was a writer of copious amounts - included lyrics for musical comedies (some 30 all told - around 250 songs). And therein lies the first clue to enjoying a Wodehouse - a good one will be like spending a couple of hours in the theatre - a `musical comedy' approach is necessary, a `between-the-wars', musical comedy approach in fact.
Love and ridiculous complications, mad uncles and tart aunts, rich old fogies and poverty stricken young things ... warm balmy, never to be repeated summer days, and policemen (who appear solely for the purpose of knocking their helmets off in order to be captured and dragged along to the local magistrate - who will turn out to be the offenders, as-yet-un-met father of newly affianced fiancé).
Uncle Fred in the Springtime has most of these elements or a variation thereof - and the Blanding's Pig.
The story is not really essential - in this case it revolves around one Uncle, Fred, trying to get another Uncle, the Loony Duke of Dunstable, to behave in a reasonable manner and cough up lots of money to support his poetry writing nephew in the enterprise of an onion soup stall in Picadilly, which will facilitate the said poet's marriage - to the dance teaching daughter of a private detective. There is also the sub plot of preventing the removal of Lord Emsworth's pig by the poker wielding Duke, who is convinced Emsworth wishes to enter the pig in the Derby, and the supplying of even more money to Fred's nephew who is in danger of several broken limbs and a long stay in a hospital bed on account of debts unpaid.
Confused? - you are allowed to be. And yet there is a clarity in the confusion - you never get confused enough to lose track, (either that, or you are laughing too much to care) and something new pops up so quickly you do not notice any confusion in yourself whilst noticing it in the story.
And that's my next tip - take a chair into the garden, a bowl of strawberries (peppered) and an ice bucket with a bottle of champagne and one flute. Position yourself - and read. Don't `do' a Wodehouse in too many sessions - it's a two act-er rather than five. Just let the whole silly story flow over you and worryeth not about following every detail. Being tipsy helps.
Most Wodehouses have a central character around whom things fly (revolve is far too sedate a word). Here it is Uncle Fred - not surprising really, given the title.
He's a lovely old buffer - Shakespeare quoting, so an instant success with me - although not so with his nephew and niece, nor his fortunately absent wife. He has an aging Puck-like quality of solving problems in a way which causes maximum difficulties for all around, including `Uncle Fred'. Rarely does he doubt himself - everything will resolve satisfactorily, by magic it seems.
Fred is very `hands-on' - preferably his nephews or other gullible young tyke, or co-operative young tyke-ess (who knows a good plan when she sees it). Nice young things fall for him instantly - sour prunes not so (one is left with the suspicion his absent wife is more the former than latter - but plays a good part in appearing shrivelled).
Fred's biggest challenge is his contemporaries - who seem to have grown crabbed with age. Principle is Emsworth's wife - who is the sort of woman who'd take a hairbrush to the backside of some poor nephew at the drop of a cricket ball (through the greenhouse window). Her biggest weapon is knowledge - of Fred's wife - and access to a jungle telegraph more effective than e-mail. A minor danger, swiftly dealt with, is his neice - who is apprentice sour prune.
In a similar class to the niece, is the secretary - male. I suspect Wodehouse had problems with one of these early in life and consequently took a hatchet to the species whenever the opportunity arouse. Dishonest, devious, cowardly, ganging up with the united forces of vinegar-women and Loony-Dukedom. Fortunately he gets truly egged.
And there is the-passion-for-taking-money-off-other-people-with-a-card-game, Private Detective - who just happens to be the father of a wanna-be poet's bride.
How could a story fail with such a classic bunch of caricatures? Quite easily - but not on Wodehouse's typewriter. Lesser writers would find it very difficult to assemble an entertaining castle on such foundations.
Wodehouse's cement is a wit with language - and spare, effective, cutting dialogue (no doubt sharpened in the fifteen plays he joint wrote). It is not surprising adaptations of his novels and stories make such good television.